The Egyptian concept of "maat" (transliterated into English with various spellings) is a good example. The concept is sometimes personified into a goddess of sorts, and other times treated as an abstract principle. In either case, the fiction of weighing the human heart against a feather on a balance remains a powerful metaphor, and crystalizes not only the Egyptian notion of judgment, but also that of numerous other cultures, ancient and modern.
By contrast, the New Testament offers a complex and confusing idea of judgment, which - however interpreted - is rather different from the Egyptian one. Jesus offers us a tension between his famous dictum "Do not judge, or you too will be judged" and his willingness to judge: he tell a woman caught in adultery, "Go now and leave your life of sin." Whether one agrees or disagrees with Jesus, an interpretive challenge presents itself as we seek to create some harmony out of this tension: how do we find the consistency in the apparent, but merely apparent, contradiction?
A follower of Jesus, named variously Saul and Paul, gives us a clue in a letter he wrote to early followers of Jesus living in Rome:
Now if you feel inclined to set yourself up as a judge of those who sin, let me assure you, whoever you are, that you are in no position to do so. For at whatever point you condemn others you automatically condemn yourself, since you, the judge, commit the same sins. God’s judgment, we know, is utterly impartial in its action against such evil-doers. What makes you think that you who so readily judge the sins of others, can consider yourself beyond the judgment of God?We see here the same tension: a command not to judge, and - in the same breath - a clear judgment that some are, in fact, sinning. The determination that someone is sinning is itself a judgment. So how can we reconcile Paul's command not to judge, delivered in a bundle with a clear judgment. The irony is compressed: we are commanded not to judge those who sin. By identifying them as those who sin, has not Paul already judged them?
We can resolve the tension existing in Paul's words - and the words of Jesus - by noting a careful distinction: We are commanded not to judge people. We are left free to judge actions, indeed, encouraged to judge actions. In this distinction, not only can we resolve the internal tension within the New Testament, but we can also capture the exact nature of the different between Jesus and the Egyptian concept of maat.
If I judge a man's actions as evil, I am still prohibited from judging the man himself as evil. Here introduced is a distinction between agent and action, between the person and the what he does. If everyone who does an evil act is reckoned as evil, then all humans would be evil, because all humans, sooner or later, do the wrong thing. If all who do something right are reckoned as good, then all people will be called good, because everybody, sooner or later, does something right. Paul and Jesus are acknowledging the ethical reality that every human performs a mixture of actions - some good, some bad. We can sort out the actions, but we cannot label the individual.
Instead of sorting humanity into two groups - as the Egyptian maat does - the New Testament places all people into the same boat: morally equivocal, committed both virtuous deeds and sins. The Egyptian worldview creates two classes of humans, with the inevitable if unintended result that they will be pitted against each other; the New Testament offers a unifying notion, that all humans find themselves in the same ethical predicament - a morally ambiguous nature - and looking to the same solution - to cast themselves upon the mercy of a deity.